This was an undoubtedly tough offseason for the @Arizona Coyotes.
Last December, they gave up three prospects, their 2020 first-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick for Taylor Hall. They got into the playoffs after it expanded to 12 teams, beat the @Nashville Predators before losing to the @Colorado Avalanche in five.
When the season ended, Hall walked and the Coyotes have absolutely nothing to show for it. On top of them losing the star winger, they also lost their 2020 second-round pick for violating the NHL’s Combine Testing Policy. Then they tried to trade @Oliver Ekman-Larsson to move some money out and re-stock shelves a bit, but that didn’t work. So they were left with very minimal cap space and a roster that got worse. All-in-all, it was a brutal offseason.
Projected Forward Lines
Other than Hall leaving and an entirely new fourth line, the Coyotes look a lot like the team that started the 2019-20 season. The top-line of @Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak and @Conor Garland spent a good chunk of time together in 2020. Besides Hall-Dvorak-Garland, this was their best line from an ExpectedGoalsFor% and was much better defensively than the Hall version. It might not have the name value of other top lines in the NHL but this was an effective trio, and they should stick together to start next 2021.
The other line that should remain intact is Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan and @Phil Kessel. This trio led all Coyotes’ lines in CorsiFor% (56.2) but struggled to convert the puck possession into goals. Some of that can be attributed to poor puck-luck, particularly in Kessel’s case. He’s a career 10.9% shooter and saw his SH% drop to 9.2 last season. I’d expect a bounce-back from Kessel in 2021, and we can probably consider this as their top-line if that happens.
@Barrett Hayton is expected to graduate into the NHL full-time in 2021 after a shoulder injury in the World Juniors derailed his season a year ago. Hayton was a force in that tournament, leading Canada with 12 points (6G / 6A) in seven games. He has the offensive ability to potentially bump Stepan from the Keller/Kessel line, but we’ll slot him in on a young third line with @Lawson Crouse and @Christian Fischer for now. A line that has an average size of 6-foot-3, 208 lbs. and plenty of upside.
Their fourth line features three players that were all brought in via free agency. They got @Johan Larsson from the @Buffalo Sabres, and he is one of the best fourth-line centres in the business and will do a great job replacing Brad Richardson. On his wings, @Tyler Pitlick (6-foot-2, 200 lbs) and @John Hayden (6-foot-3, 223 lbs) both bring plenty of size and physicality with some offensive punch.
Projected Defensive Pairings
With Ekman-Larsson not getting traded to the @Boston Bruins or @Vancouver Canucks, the Coyotes return the same blueline for 2021.
The top-pair of Ekman-Larsson and @Jason Demers played nearly 700 minutes together at 5v5 last year and Rick Tocchet seems comfortable with them together. This probably was the best time to trade Ekman-Larsson though, he appears to be trending in the wrong direction and still has seven-years left on a contract that carries an $8.25M cap-hit, making him the sixth highest-paid defenseman in 2021.
Their second-pair spent even more time together last year, playing a whopping 912.7 TOI together. @Alex Goligoski and @Jakob Chychrun were one of four pairings to play that much ice-time together a season ago.
Of the 57 pairings that played at least 400 minutes together: Ekman-Larson/Demers were 24th in GA/60 while Goligoski/Chychrun was 37th.
@Niklas Hjalmarsson is the only sure thing on the third-pair. @Jordan Oesterle and @Ilya Lyubushkin are the options for the right-side, both were in the lineup at points in 2020. Their top prospect @Victor Soderstrom has played a big role for his club in the SHL, suggesting that he could come over and fill that role at 19-years-old. In his last 40 SHL games, the 2019 No.11 overall pick has six goals and 14 assists (20 points).
Salary Cap Figures via PuckPedia.com